InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Calling the Bluff ( Chapter 192 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter One Hundred Ninety-Two~~
~Calling the Bluff~


' And as the flames climbed high into the night ...
'To light the sacrificial rite
'I saw Satan laughing with delight
'The day the music died …'

-'American Pie' by Don McLean.


"How's your salad?"

Valerie sat back and set her fork down as the waitress appeared beside the table to refill her water glass.  Smiling politely, she nodded in thanks, then turned to Marvin before answering.  "It's very good," she replied.

He uttered his usual high-pitched, almost nervous little laugh.  "Good!  I tell you, being away so much really makes me appreciate being home," he said.  "I know that lots of people think that the city's too busy and everything, but I miss it when I'm gone."

She considered that for a moment then nodded.  She understood what he meant, but, remembering the Christmas spent in Maine, thinking about the trip to Kentucky, she had to admit that she didn't really mind the more laid-back atmosphere of those less populated areas, either.  "I suppose there's more to do here," she allowed.  "Making any headway in getting the funding for your research?"

This time, he sighed, and for a moment, she felt bad for asking him something that seemed to bother him so much.  "A little," he told her.  "It just takes time."

"I'm sure you'll get it.  It's a very worthwhile cause," she assured him.

He gave her that uncertain little smile.  "Oh, yeah," he agreed quickly.  "I'm just being impatient."

Valerie nodded, idly picking at her salad while Marvin turned his attention back to the roasted chicken cutlet on his plate.  The image of a mad scientist, hunkered over his latest cadaver as he struggled to figure out just what made a body come to life sprang up in her head, and she had to bite down on her cheek to keep from laughing out loud.  She wasn't entirely sure where the imagery had come from, but it reminded her of one of those really old Frankenstein movies—or maybe a silly Disney thing.  The tiny little professor who had to stand upon a step stool to be tall enough to carry out his experimentation . . .

Exaggeratedly stupid, she figured absently.  All he really needed was the grimy white lab coat and the headband lamp along with the super-thick spectacles to make the image complete . . .

'Okay, so that wasn't exactly nice,' she thought to herself.  She wasn't trying to be cruel, and yet, the more she tried not to think about it, the funnier it became in her head.

Clearing her throat, she pulled her cell phone out of her purse, checking in vain to see if Evan had gotten the time to return her text yet.  He hadn't.  He was probably still at that photo shoot, she supposed, so it wasn't entirely surprising that he hadn't, but . . . but he hadn't called her this morning, either, and when she'd called around eight, he hadn't answered.  So she'd left him a short birthday greeting, but it just wasn't like him, was it?  Nothing like not hearing from him all day to make her realize just how often they usually talked . . .


Snapping her head up, she blinked in surprise, only to find Marvin, staring expectantly at her.  "Um, sorry . . . what was that?"

He smiled.  "I said, Darren Mallot invited us to go down to his beach house in Miami this summer," Marvin said, holding his right hand out straight, bending back the fingers as he carefully examined his nails.  For some reason, they reminded Valerie of newborn mice, all pink and smooth and soft.  They were like the polar opposite of Evan's fingers—fingers that bore calluses on the tips of each one from the hours he spent with the guitar in his hands—fingers that were long and slender yet entirely masculine.  The mental images made her frown as Marvin went on, oblivious to the thoughts running through her head.  "It sounds like a good time, and I thought it'd be something you'd like.  He's got a yacht, and he loves to go scuba diving."  Another nervous laugh.  "Not really my thing, but you'd said before that you'd like to try it sometime."

"Oh, yeah, scuba diving's pretty fun," she allowed.

"You sound like you've done it before?" That nervous giggle . . .

'Yes . . . a giggle . . .' she mused.  That uncertainty, that feeling that he was never quite comfortable, even in his own skin . . . For some reason, it bothered her more than usual.  He was a good person—incredibly smart, incredibly dedicated to the things he believed in—and he shouldn't feel that inferior to anyone, but that's what it was, wasn't it?  But why . . .? "Uh, yes . . . we did that when we went down to the Bahamas a few months ago . . ."

Marvin fell silent for a moment.  "You . . . You went to the Bahamas?" he finally asked.

Valerie blinked, a thoughtful frown surfacing on her features.  Marvin's tone was a little too cautious, even a little too casual.  "Yes, Evan and I went down there just after New Year's . . . I didn't tell you about that?"

"No . . ." Marvin drawled slowly, then hurriedly blurted, "I mean, not that it's a big deal or anything . . . Bet it was nice, huh?"

A flash of memory, of wandering along the beach with Evan, flickered to life in her mind, and she smiled despite herself.  "Very."

He considered that for a moment then smiled.  "Must be nice to have friends who do stuff like that—just take off for the Bahamas and take you along, that is," he ventured then gave a short laugh.  "I'm surprised you wanted to come back.  I might have had to give it a second thought, myself."  Again, the little twitter of a laugh.  "You two have been spending so much time together . . . Should I be jealous?"

She could hear the teasing note in his voice, but she could also see the strains of anxiety around his eyes, too.  "N-No," she replied a moment later than she probably should have, and she forced a smile as she brushed aside the strange feeling that something just wasn't quite right.  Something whispered in the back of her mind that she didn't want to think about it too long . . . "Don't be silly . . ."

He relaxed.  She could sense it, but it was also there in the heightened brightness of his gaze.  "Good!  I-I didn't think so, you know?  I'm just being silly, right?"

The chime of her cell phone interrupted her before she could respond.  It was Madison's ringtone.  "Oh . . ."

"Go ahead," Marvin said, flicking his fork in her direction.

"Hello?" she said, giving Marvin a quick smile as she stood up and hurried away from the table.

"Hey, V!  I just wanted to know what time we're supposed to be at The Cube tonight for Evan's party?"

"Oh, I'm sorry," she replied with a sigh as she pushed into the women's bathroom.  "That was cancelled.  I tried to call you last night, but your voicemail was full."

"Cancelled?  Why?"

"He had to work.  I guess someone messed up the prints from the last photo session, so they've got to re-do them all."

Madison snorted.  "That can't be right.  I just talked to him a few minutes ago, and he's at home—and Mike knows damn well that Evan never, ever works on his birthday.  He hasn't in years, anyway, and I doubt he'd start now."

Valerie frowned.  ". . . He's where?"

"At home," Madison repeated.  "It surprised me since I thought you had his birthday all planned out?"

"I . . . I cancelled everything," Valerie muttered, her confusion growing by the second.  He was at home?  No, he couldn't be.  If he was, then that would mean that he had lied . . . But . . . But why . . .?

"So I take it that the party's off then," Madison commented dryly.

"Oh, yeah . . ." Valerie sighed.  "He's at home," she repeated.  "You're sure."

"Absolutely sure," Madison verified.  She was silent for a moment, then she sighed.  "Did something happen, V?"

Caught off guard by the softness of Madison's question, by the sense of foreboding that seemed too compassionate, too . . . too precarious, Valerie shook her head.  "N-No," she said, lowering her voice, turning toward the corner when another woman entered the bathroom.  "I mean, everything was fine," she said, struggling to recall everything about yesterday afternoon.  "Just fine—until . . ." Cutting herself off abruptly, she frowned.  'Until . . . Marvin called . . .' she thought.  But there was no way that he could have heard her talking on the phone, could he?  She'd heard him playing guitar, and then . . .

But then, he'd stopped, and when she'd walked back into the living room, he'd had his cell phone like he had just finished a call, but . . . But he could have, couldn't he?  He could have heard at least part of her conversation.  Had he thought that she was going to blow him off, just because Marvin had flown in?

Heaving a sigh, she winced.  A succession of memories, of isolated moments when she'd done exactly that, filtered through her head in a matter of seconds that felt like lifetimes.  Pitifully few, really, considering Marvin didn't actually come to town that often, and even though Evan ought to have realized that his birthday—well, it was important to her—too important for her to even have considered calling it off . . .

"Sorry, Maddy," she finally said, clearing her throat a few times as she straightened her back and headed for the bathroom door, "we'll do the party some other time."

Madison laughed, apparently relieved, though why that was, Valerie couldn't say.  "Okay, sweetie.  Give my best to our birthday boy."

Valerie smiled.  "Will do," she said as she clicked the call end button then dialed Bone's number.

"Well, hey, hey, hey, pretty lady," he greeted.

"Hi, Bone," she replied.  "Evan's there, isn't he?"

"Oh, well . . ." the head of security drawled.

"Cut the crap.  Maddy just told me that he is."

Bone sighed.  "Nothin' much gets past you, ya?"

Valerie didn't comment on that.  "Do me a favor, will you?"

"Anything for you, ya," he said.

She weaved her way through the assembly of tables.  "Call me if Evan leaves the house, please—and try to stop him."

"Sho' thang," he replied.  "Stalling him might take some effort, though . . ."

"You can think of something," she insisted.  "Please."

"All right," he agreed at length.  "Since it's for you, anyway."

"Thank you," she said, then ended the call as she drew abreast of the table.  The smallest bit of wind was forced out of her sails, though, when she looked at Marvin, but not enough to stop her.  "M-Marvin," she began.  On one hand, she felt bad at the idea of just running out on him when he'd just flown across the country to see her.  On the other, well, she'd made a promise, and even if she hadn't, it wouldn't matter, anyway.  After all, she wanted to spend Evan's birthday with him, and not just because he'd gone out of the way to make hers special.

He stood as she stopped beside the table, the nervous smile on his face widening.  When he got a good look at her, though, the smile faltered just a little.  "Something come up?"

"Well," she said, retrieving her jacket off the back of her chair, "kind of . . . not really."

"Okay," he said, shaking his head in confusion.

"Evan's birthday is today," she explained hurriedly as she shrugged on the jacket.  "Anyway, I promised I'd spend the day with him, but he said he had things to do today, but . . . but I guess those things fell through, so . . ."

"Oh, say no more!" Marvin hurriedly assured her, reaching out to help her.  "I mean, he went out of his way to make sure your birthday was great, right?  Of course you should return the favor!"

She hurriedly leaned forward to kiss the air near his cheek and started to hurry off, but stopped long enough to turn back to Marvin again.  "Uh, I'm not sure how late—"

He waved a hand in dismissal, but his smile didn't falter.  "Don't worry about it," he said.  "I'm just going to go home, read over a few notes, and get to bed early, so if I miss you in the morning, I'll call you when I get to Nevada.  Besides, he spent your birthday with you, didn't he?  So it only seems fair for you to do the same for him."

"You're right.  I'm so sorry," she said, flashing a smile at him as she wheeled around and strode away.  "Have a safe flight!"


'Let me count the ways to call you 'stupid',' Evan's youkai remarked .  'Stupid, idiot, moron, fool, dumb fuck, idget . . . I think that about covers English . . . Should I move on to other languages now?'

"I know; I know," Evan muttered, scooching down in the overstuffed chair and flinging another dart.  It struck, dead center on the bull's eye.  "Fucking stupid," he agreed with a sigh.  "I got that."

'Since when did you decide to start being so damn noble?'

He sighed, tossing another dart.  This one missed the board entirely, embedding itself in the wall a good foot away.  When had he started that kind of shit? he wondered.

"Marvin?  Hi," she'd said.  "Oh, uh, no.  I'm over at Evan's. . . In between meetings . . .?"

That was all he'd needed to hear.  It was more than enough to send his good mood plummeting fast and hard.  She'd promised, yes, and yet . . .

He grimaced and leaned forward just far enough to nab the half-empty beer off the short table beside him.  'She's never gonna figure out that she doesn't wanna be with that little puss unless she actually spends some time with him so she can see it for herself, right?' he told himself.  'That's all . . .'

His youkai snorted.  'That's not all.  Ain't nothing noble about lying, just so you know—and for the record, lying to me is pretty damn pointless.'

Draining the rest of the beer, Evan deliberately ignored that statement for a moment, then let the bottle drop from his fingers.  It hit the floor with a dull thud.

'The real reason you did it was because you didn't want to hear her put you off, right?'

Wincing at the deadly accuracy of his youkai's assessment, he let out a heavy breath and flung another dart in the general direction of the target.  Yeah, okay, so that might have something to do with it, too.  Even if she'd promised . . .

He sighed.  Even if she promised, he couldn't help the stone cold fear that she really would dump him to run to that little shit's side, and if she didn't?  How could he stand to look at her all day, knowing that she at least felt guilty on some level for spending the day with him when she should be with that damned Meatball instead?

'But we have made progress with her,' his youkai pointed out.

He couldn't even summon up the smallest amount of optimism about it.  'Have we?' he wondered.  'Have we really . . .?'

'Of course we have,' the voice went on sternly.  'Think about it.  She really is your best friend.  She took that spot a long time ago, and you know damn well that she really does rely on you, probably more than she's ever relied upon anyone, ever.  Isn't that what they say is the basis for a good and lasting relationship?  So it's taking time to convince her.  You knew it would, and even then, she's worth it, right?  That damned Minnie is nothing more than a minor setback, nothing more.'

'A minor setback . . .' Evan mused, drumming his claws against the arm of the chair.  Okay, so he'd agree with that.  After all, even if that little dork was in town, he never stayed long, and then Evan would have Valerie all to himself again.

'So . . . So, what now?'

He snorted.  He might consider calling her, but it was probably still too early to do it, considering he'd told her that he had to redo that photo shoot . . . Besides, she'd want to know why he hadn't called all day, wouldn't she?  Maybe he ought to sneak over to her place and see if he couldn't slip Ugvin a little something to knock him out for the rest of the day . . . He discarded that idea about as fast as it occurred to him, though.  For one, he would be in for a world of trouble if Valerie figured it out, and for another, well, he just wasn't really the kind do to any such thing, which was a damn shame . . . Nope, he'd much rather sit back and watch the doofus dig his own grave.  He could only hope that he'd hurry the hell up . . .

It was his choice to cancel the birthday celebration.  Too bad he was having a hard time remembering that little fact.  Maybe if he really had something to do it wouldn't be so bad, but he'd stubbornly refused to call Mike and tell him that he was free for the day.  So instead, he'd just kind of moped around the house doing pretty much nothing.  He'd tried to work on a song earlier, but he was too restless to do that for more than a few minutes before he gave up.

Heaving a sigh, he closed his eyes.  Maybe he'd go for a swim or something.  It was warm out today, though to be perfectly honest, he never much paid attention to the season or the weather when he went swimming, anyway.  There were more than a couple times that he'd gotten the itch to go swimming in the dead of winter.  He didn't stay in the pool that long, but it was good for getting rid of unspent nervous energy.

"You know, I could have sworn that you told me you had to do a photo shoot today."

Evan blinked and pushed against the floor, swiveling the chair around, only to find Valerie leaning casually in the doorway with her arms crossed over her chest and a raised eyebrow-ed look leveled at him.  "Oh, hey, V," he said, pushing aside the feelings of guilt that he'd lied to her in the first place.  "Fancy meeting you in a hellhole like this."

Her lips twitched though she managed to hold onto her blanked expression.  "So you want to tell me why you're home—alone—instead of at your shoot?"

"It's not a biggie," he informed her as he hauled himself to his feet and brushed past her to go upstairs to get another beer.

She followed him.  "You overheard my call with Marvin, didn't you?" she pressed.

"I might have," he allowed with a shrug.

"Hmm, then you should have heard me when I started to tell him that I'd already made plans for today."

He paused in his step for a moment before moving on.  No, he hadn't heard that part of, actually . . . "I must've missed that," he admitted.

"Okay," she agreed amiably.  "I'll buy that.  Thank you for being so thoughtful, but you're taking one thing completely for granted."

Fishing a beer out of the fridge, he offered her one, but she declined with a flick of the wrist.  "What's that?" he asked as he twisted the cap.

She let out a deep breath and tilted her head to the side as a small smile finally broke over her features—a lazy sort of smile that sent a shiver straight down his spine.  "Did it cross your mind that I might want to spend today with you?  That I might have been really looking forward to it?"

Her tone was casual enough, but Evan would have had to be stupid to miss the hint of censure.  "Is that so?" he asked, unable to control the little grin her words inspired.

She sighed.  "Yeah, actually, I do.  So why would you do that, anyway?  I thought you hated Marvin."

He snorted.  He couldn't help it.  "Well, I figured that if you spent enough time with the little nutsack, you'd realize you don't belong with him—and then you'd dump him and come running back to me with arms wide open.  Legs, too, if you wanted."

Rolling her eyes, she tried not to laugh but failed, though she did shake her head and give him a playful little shove.  "Jerk," she told him.

"What can I say?  I aim big," he retorted as he tipped back the beer.  "So how'd you find out that I was home?"

She strolled around the bar and leaned on her elbows.  "Madison called me."

"Ah, I knew I should've ignored her call," he mumbled, his voice muffled by the beer bottle.

"I'm glad she did," Valerie pointed out.

Evan finished off the beer and rinsed it out before sticking the empty bottle into a wooden beer crate.  "Yeah, I guess I am, too."

"You'd better be," Valerie warned.

"I am; I am."

She drew a deep breath and raised her eyebrows at him.  "Anyway . . . isn't there a birthday boy around here?  And if I'm not wrong, he doesn't actually have anything planned right now; is that right?"

His grin widened.  "I think there might be one," he said.

"Good," she stated, pushing herself up off the bar and heading toward the door.  "Come on, Evan.  It's not what I originally had planned, but, well, it's the best I could come up with."

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~= ~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
'American Pie' by Don McLean originally appeared on the 1971 release, American Pie.  Copyrighted to Don McLean.
== == == == == == == == == ==
sutlesarcasm ——— OROsan0677 ——— Dark Inuu Fan ——— ji-an ——— oblivion-bringr
amohip ——— cutechick18
Thought from Valerie:
Happy Birthday!
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Subterfuge):  I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga.  Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al.  I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

Chapter 191
Chapter 193
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